Divorce – when is it time to go?

I recently discussed divorce with my colleague Dr. Drew Pinsky. For those of you who have heard us in the past, you may remember that we both tend to feel that couples give up on marriage too easily these days. Divorce is costly, painful and disruptive to all involved and yet the divorce rate remains extremely high. What specifically is the upside of marriage, those of you who are struggling may wonder?

The department of health and human services lists the following trends for marrieds:


For Women:
-More satisfying relationship
-Emotionally healthier
-Less likely to be victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or other violent crimes
-Less likely to attempt or commit suicide
-Decrease risk of drug and alcohol abuse
-Less likely to contract STDs
-Less likely to remain or end up in poverty
-Have better relationships with their children
-Physically healthier

For Men:
-Live longer
-Physically healthier
-Increase in the stability of employment
-Higher wages
-Emotionally healthier
-Decrease risk of drug and alcohol abuse
-Have better relationships with their children
-More satisfying sexual relationship
-Less likely to commit violent crimes
-Less likely to contract STDs
-Less likely to attempt or commit suicide

For Children and Youth: -More likely to attend college
-More likely to succeed academically
-Physically healthier
-Emotionally healthier
-Less likely to attempt or commit suicide
-Demonstrate less behavioral problems in school
-Less likely to be a victim of physical or sexual abuse
-Less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol
-Less likely to commit delinquent behaviors
-Have a better relationship with their mothers and fathers
-Decreases their chances of divorcing when they get married
-Less likely to become pregnant as a teenager, or impregnate someone
-Less likely to be sexually active as teenagers
-Less likely to contract STDs
-Less likely to be raised in poverty

Divorce robs everyone involved of many of these financial, health and happiness benefits.

Yet even Dr. Drew and I agree there are times when it is reasonable to get a divorce. Certainly if there is physical abuse and also if there is chronic damaging emotional abuse (constant criticism, name calling, humiliation, socially isolating), divorce would be reasonable. I would add that disdain and contempt are two feelings that are very difficult to surmount and sometimes erode a marriage to the point where all involved are truly suffering due to the caustic nature of the home environment. Sometimes the problem is really that one partner is suffering from depression, anxiety or even substance abuse. In that case, treatment of that individual can shift a marriage back into a good and stable place.

Today expectations for a marriage are generally too high. People expect it to be fun a lot of the time, romantic, and to have a partner be very giving. They don’t expect rocky roads, ups and downs, crummy periods and a lot of work to keep both the loving feelings and the sexual feelings going. Many people blame their personal unhappiness on their marriage, and this is not always the case. Many people do become unhappy because they have personal problems to work out and getting divorced is really not going to make them happier. A new spouse won’t necessarily make them happier either.

Marriages take a lot of hard work and generally speaking, given the many benefits, it is worth the work. Think twice before throwing in the towel, unless the situation is emotionally or physically dangerous. If you do proceed to divorce, remember that a healthy divorce is every bit as important as a healthy marriage. So work on achieving a peaceful split where the two of you can work together for the benefit of both of you and any children going forward.


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